A sheep in wolf’s clothing – my experience with the CV6 Monaro.
There isn’t much to say about Holden’s V2 Monaro that hasn’t already been said. From humble beginnings as a vision in Michael Simcoe’s head, to stage-stealing concept car and then production car released in 2002, the Monaro’s story is somewhat of a hero’s tale. However, while the coupe stands as a testament to the Australian automotive industry, a forgotten chapter resides within the pages. A chapter simply titled, 'The CV6'.
Released at the same time as the all-hallowed CV8 with its legendary LS1, the CV6 was instead powered by a supercharged 3.8-litre Ecotec as found in the Caprice, Statesman and Commodore SV6 models of the time. The CV6 served as a base-model Monaro for those who wanted to get behind the wheel of a coupe without the exuberant price tag. While the idea looked good on paper, the car itself never really caught on, and almost from the get-go the CV6 lived in the shadows of its older brother’s limelight.
As far as I can tell, this was mainly due to buyers not seeing the sense of a six-cylinder-powered coupe, as well as Holden’s choice not to include attractive optional extras such as a manual gearbox. In fact, I never even knew a six-cylinder variant existed until I, getting sick of old beaters, was looking to buy a cool modern muscle car. And with the same curiosity that killed the cat, I bought a CV6 Monaro.
Devil Red in colour, my Monaro was bone stock, but even so, as far as first impressions go, I loved it. I finally had the car that had been in my head since I was five and it was released, and it was a huge step up compared to the cars I had been driving. The biggest problem I initially had was just that the steering felt a bit heavy, but nevertheless I was absolutely stoked. The first day of owning it, I drove to Phillip Island and back, only getting out of the car for some Thai food (that’s a long way to go for Thai).
The honeymoon phase of owning this car was a delight, riddled with more daytrips out to the Mornington Peninsula, Lorne, Dandenong Ranges and so forth. When I wasn’t doing this, I spent my time cleaning the car and making it look perfect. I was addicted to the reactions people had to the car, either passing it by on the street or even the eight-year-old at Bunnings who couldn’t contain his excitement about the “real Monaro”.
While I enjoyed this attention, I couldn’t help shake the fact that these people weren’t excited over my car, they were excited over what they thought my car was. The more I thought about this, the more I couldn’t shake the idea that I was driving a kit car, an MR2 dressed as a Ferrari, even just a glorified VX Commodore. And even though these people couldn’t tell the difference, I could.
Around this time, these feelings made themselves known, almost like a time bomb going off, and the mechanical issues followed. My car would completely stop if in traffic for extended periods of time, would not start if the fuel tank was below a quarter and parked on a small hill, and over the time of my ownership (all in all about 14 months) needed engine mounts, a new main seal, new front stabilisers, a new steering rack as well as a few other things.
Despite all this, I tried to persevere with the car as I did not want to give up on my dream. When I was a kid, my friend’s dad drove a Porsche, but then it got stolen and so started the common quote, “I used to drive a Porsche”. Did I want to be someone that used to drive a Monaro?
I thought long and hard about everything, and suddenly it dawned on me that my lifestyle at the time just was not compatible. It’s not a car that deserves to be kept on the street, and as time went on I came to be more worried about its well-being. The Devil Red even started showing signs that it was ageing, and that’s when I knew this love affair had to end.
Don’t get me wrong, when it wanted to be it was a fantastic car, but ultimately if you’re looking to spend under $20K on a late-model Monaro, spend a bit more and get a CV8. Otherwise, for the most part, you’ll just be driving around wondering what might have been.